Man Whose Home Is Threatened By Pollution Takes A Firm Stand That No Others Were Willing To

Humans dump 14 billion pounds of garbage into the ocean every year. Much of it washes up on the shore, while the rest of it accumulates in the trash vortexes that span hundreds of thousands of square miles in the middle of the ocean.

With those numbers in mind, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by pollution. What can one person do to fight such a big problem? Well, just ask Afroz Shah. When washed-up garbage threatened his community, he laid out an unprecedented plan to try and save its most vulnerable inhabitants.

Afroz Shah was disgusted. The young lawyer watched as his home city of Mumbai filled up with trash and litter, and living conditions for his family and neighbors became more and more deplorable.

Twitter / Afroz Shah

One part of Mumbai that saw the most washed-up garbage was scenic Versova Beach. For generations, the seaside locale served as the ideal nesting ground for sea turtles. Recently, however, things had taken a turn for the worse.

Flickr / Bureau of Land Management

Each year, monsoons heaped mountains of trash onto Versova Beach, and nobody seemed willing to clean it up. By 2015, the shore looked more like a junkyard than a vacation spot.

Twitter / Erik Solheim

The pollution epidemic threatened the turtle population. The majestic creatures often got hopelessly tangled in the garbage or choked on poisonous shards of plastic. If the current trend continued, Versova Beach would someday have no turtles at all.

Jordi Chias

The problem appeared insurmountable, and worse, it was a problem that plagued all of India. Afroz figured if he started small and made his own hometown a better place, he might inspire the entire country to follow suit, too. So he set out for the beach with a bucket and gloves.

Reuters

With a few friends in tow, Afroz began picking up pieces of garbage. Once his bucket was full, he hauled the trash away and came back to fill it back up again. But there was so much trash, it seemed like Afroz’s efforts were just an exercise in futility.

Afroz realized he couldn’t do it on his own. He started to publicize his cleaning efforts, and within a few days, he saw shocking results. Hundreds of people came out to lend a helping hand, and they kept coming back each week.

Twitter / Afroz Shah

Afroz’s volunteer calls were a great opportunity for him to connect with like-minded Indians, particularly generous individuals who lent equipment and vehicles to the project. No longer having to rely on manpower alone, Afroz’s mission really started to pick up.

Twitter / Afroz Shah

Even notable Indians, like Bollywood star Randeep Hooda, pitched in to clean up the shore and spread the good word. But while Afroz and his friends invested so much time and energy in their mission, deep down he feared it was useless.

Arfoz’s inner circle noticed their leader’s enthusiasm was beginning to wane. After two years of regular clean-ups, he shocked his supporters by announcing that he would call it quits. What on earth happened?

YouTube / Rotaract Suncity

On a regular basis, a group of “goons” wandered onto Versova Beach to harass volunteers and dump more litter on the beach. Afroz was hesitant to engage the instigators, as he feared violence would break out. He talked to police, but they were unwilling to intervene.

Afroz also ran into a wall trying to get the Indian government more involved. Though the Prime Minister praised Afroz’s vision, local leaders took a different route. Instead of supporting his efforts, they slapped additional trash disposal requirements on his team.¬†

Facebook / Afroz Shah

With private and public forces against him, Afroz announced that he had failed. Pessimistic as he sounded, his statement was a brilliant tactic. He was not abandoning Versova Beach and its turtles; he was motivating more people to get involved.

And that’s exactly what happened. Afroz’s moment of vulnerability really kickstarted the clean-up, bringing out more volunteers and the extra equipment that they so desperately needed. Changes weren’t just happening on the beach either.

Mumbai’s environmentalists worked to become more visible within the community itself. They organized demonstrations against trash dumping and educated children about how to combat the effects of pollution.

Twitter / Afroz Shah

With a few more months, the transformation was complete. Versova Beach’s sands looked pristine, no longer covered with rotting garbage. Beach goers could swim in the ocean without bumping into milk jugs or getting a mouthful of cigarette butts.

But humans weren’t the only ones to reap the benefits. Versova’s sea turtle population began to recover, as mature turtles had plenty of places for nests, and the hatchling’s path to the ocean became far easier to navigate.

Flickr / Keenan Adams

Afroz’s accomplishment didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, one of the biggest organizations in the world celebrated his mission. For removing over 11 million pounds of trash from Versova Beach, the United Nations named Afroz a “Champion of the Earth” in 2017.

Twitter / Afroz Shah

Back in India, Afroz was expanding his conservation efforts across the country by the end of 2018. His program was particularly focused on getting the future generations involved, and had 30,000 kids enrolled in classes and cleaning trips.

Twitter / Afroz Shah

After it all, when Afroz strolled down his hometown beach with family and friends, he felt proud for taking such a bold stand. He could tell that all the turtles were grateful too! There were more of them around the shoreline than most locals had seen in decades!

Twitter / Afroz Shah

It is almost unbelievable how Afroz turned a trash-covered beach into a place where humans and turtles alike could enjoy.

Share this incredible transformation with your friends!

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